Who Is Behind the Big Changes Coming to The Bakery Square Food Hall
A new owner is taking over from Galley Group, which has run the 6,000-square-foot Larimer eatery incubator since May 2021.
But the tide is turning at the property owned and developed by Walnut Capital.
The newly formed Shaka Restaurant Group (SRG), a local and minority operator, is preparing to take over management of the four-kitchen food hall and communal bar. It will be rebranded as City Kitchen at Bakery Square. The transition is expected to take 60 days, during which time the facility will maintain its regular hours of operation. All four kitchens were online-order ready as of Tuesday evening.
Is everybody following along, so far? It gets confusing, even for someone who has been covering Pittsburgh food news for years.
Let’s all take a deep breath and chill out for a moment.
Shaka, a surf culture hand gesture meaning “hang loose,” is also the name of the island-inspired poke bowl concept SRG CEO Summer Le has been operating at Federal Galley on the North Side; yet another food hall run by Galley Group. Her first culinary concept, Vietnamese sandwich spot Banhmilicious, debuted at the now-shuttered Smallman Galley in 2017. Le was born and spent part of her childhood in South Vietnam.
But, wait, dudes, there’s more.
Her other concept, Somi, has been a fixture at Galley Bakery Square since opening day. She will continue to dish out the nutrient-dense, progressive Asian cuisine even after City Kitchen is in full swing along with Elevate, her version of American comfort food.
The other two kitchen spaces will be filled by a Hawaiian fusion concept and an elevated burger joint specializing in local, grass-fed beef. One kitchen will rotate on a ‘pop-up’ schedule, the first of which includes Peruvian fusion. A new bar program will feature signature drinks aligned with restaurant menu items. In addition, City Kitchen will implement a new ordering system and loyalty program that encourages customer feedback.
Speaking on behalf of Walnut Capital and SRG, Joanna Doven, CEO of Premo Consultants, says the entire Bakery Square experience will be amped up with themed late-night dining events and menu tastings and “Dueling Diners with DJs.” Things should be in full swing by this fall.
All Galley Bakery Square employees will be offered employment at either City Kitchen or Federal Galley. Doven says SRG offered up its long-held Shaka kitchen space to Ashley McCoy, the owner of Revival, a made-to-order crepe and smash burger concept that opened May 23 at the Bakery Square site.
“We’re beyond thrilled to build upon Galley’s successes to create the most progressive food hall experience in the nation,” Le says. “This begins with investing in the people that make dining out possible — frontline food workers. Walnut Capital has created a most welcoming and hospitable environment at Bakery Square and our customer service model will match these people and place investments.”
City Kitchen will continue using Galley’s rotating kitchen model but plans to introduce new restaurant concepts by way of a multi-phase, incentivized employee development program. Staff members will work with a career development mentor who will help to address social and economic barriers, provide cross-training opportunities and create personalized career development plans. They’ll have the option to develop and pitch new dining ideas for review. The best suggestions will be showcased by City Kitchen on a rotating basis.
This restructuring reminds me of the educational-based efforts being undertaken by Hazelwood’s Community Kitchen Pittsburgh and Cafe Momentum in Market Square. Lawrence Hall will bring a different spin to the food hall format. Whatever happened to that pre-pandemic food truck park that was over in Millvale?
As for Galley Group, I’ve been keeping tabs on the company both as a food writer and a food eater since they launched in 2015. I ate my weight in original-tenant Iron Born Pizza and was a big fan of Smallman Galley’s bar program, which was one of the most creative in the city. As an ‘80s kid, it was nostalgically cool to peruse a cocktail menu through a View-Master-type gadget or in a VHS clamshell case.
In a statement, Galley Group CEO Chad Ellingboe said:
“Galley’s mission is to incubate local chefs/concepts who are passionate about their craft. Shaka has been with Galley since 2017 and has been a great success story on realizing the Galley mission. We are sad to be leaving Bakery Square, but thankful to the owners for allowing us to contribute to a quality food and entertainment hub for the local and surrounding community. Shaka is a sound choice and proven operator for the new food hall business model at City Kitchen.”.
Ellingboe says Galley Group is dedicated to operating Federal Galley with the same level of service and atmosphere. New concepts will be introduced soon and industry veteran McCoy has been offered a store manager position at the North Side food hall.
I hope the company continues with its plans to open Arthur’s Korner Pub in Mt. Lebanon. The bar is a local landmark.
In a press release, Walnut Capital CEO Gregg Perelman thanked Galley Group for their time at Bakery Square and wished them success with their new ventures.
“The real challenge with the restaurant industry is in building a dedicated and well-trained workforce,” Le says. “What we will have at City Kitchen is a culinary training and advancement program so that a dishwasher could spin off a career as a line chef or restaurant manager — and possibly a restaurateur.”